Year: 1939
Director: Tay Garnett
Cast: Loretta Young, David Niven, Broderick Crawford, Billie Burke, Eve Arden, Hugh Herbert, C. Aubrey Smith, Virginia Field, Zasu Pitts, Raymond Walburn

Eternally Yours was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid, and it was one of the first classic movies that I really, really loved. It had been about 10 years since I’d last seen it, despite the fact that I’ve owned it on DVD for several years now (it came with The Greeks Had a Word for Them). So yesterday I decided to pop it into the DVD player. And then I proceeded to ruin my childhood memories.

Anita (Young) is getting ready to marry Don (Crawford) when she meets charming and committed magician Tony (Niven). The two fall in love and marry. Anita goes on the road with Tony’s act, even performing in his show with him. But his stunts become more and more dangerous to please his devoted crowd, and Anita can no longer take it.  She divorces him, and to get over the heartache, she marries Don. But of course Anita can’t escape Tony for long, and not long after her wedding they’re stuck at the same party together.

It’s not that Eternally Yours is a bad movie.  It’s not. It’s just not all that great, and certainly not as great as I remembered it being. Looking at it now with the eye of someone who’s been studying film for so long, I can easily see its many faults. Which are as follows…

The film has a wonderful supporting cast in C. Aubrey Smith, Eve Arden, Bille Burke, and Zasu Pitts, but they are all under-utilized. Arden, Smith, and Burke seem to disappear half-way through the film, which adds to the feeling that there are two very different types of films going on.

Yes, there is a huge tonal/content shift halfway through the movie once Anita and Tony are divorced that is jarring. The first half is actually very charming, and is easily the best part of the movie. Niven and Young have good chemistry, and the story of a daring magician who’s torn between his commitment to his fans and his commitment to his wife makes for a very interesting love story. Had this simple premise been pulled out a little more, it would have made for a very charming romance.

But then it shifts halfway through to become a remarriage comedy. Which is a big mistake, because the best remarriage comedies are the ones that build the premise of the remarriage from very early in the film. (There are exceptions to this of course, like Sturges’ The Lady Eve.) This remarriage comedy falls flat on its face because it’s given very little time to breathe or develop. This whole aspect of the film feels very rushed.

Overall, it’s not a bad movie, and perhaps if I hadn’t loved it so much when I was young I may have enjoyed it a little more this time around. But as it is, I feel like I just destroyed a very important part of my childhood film experience.

By Katie Richardson

Year: 1932

Director: Nick Grinde

Starring:Barbara Stanwyck, Regis Toomey, Zasu Pitts, Lucien Littlefield, Clara Blandick, Oscar Apfel

Kitty (Stanwyck) is an orphaned waitress who goes to live with her aunt in a conservative town when her father dies. She earns a certain reputation when she flirts with the male customers. She falls in love with David (Toomey), the wealthy son of an oppressive and snobbish mother who will stop at nothing to separate the young lovers.

Stanwyck played a lot of these good bad girls in pre-code film. She had a line much later in her career in The Lady Eve – “The best ones aren’t as good as you probably think they are, and the bad ones aren’t as bad. Not nearly as bad.” – that seemed to sum up most of her pre-code characters. The girls who have reputations that don’t quite match who they really are. Stanwyck was really fantastic with these kinds of  roles. She managed to be both soft and feisty at the same time. Her outbursts weren’t simply indignant, whey were almost embarrassed, and filled with hurt. Her performance in Shopworn may be like others from her that we’ve seen before, but that doesn’t make it any less good.

Overall, Shopworn is just a well structured, well told pre-code romance. It’s nothing jaw dropping or ground breaking – it’s nearly identical to many other films of this type – but it’s still a solid pre-code treat. Stanwyck has strong chemistry with her leading man that makes their romance believable in all of its stages, from the young and idealistic to the older and cynical. It’s a through-the-years love story, and th performance develop convincingly.

There is one thing about Shopworn that makes it stand out from others of its type. The judgmental rich parent may be a stock character in romances like this, David’s mother is a true terror. One of the most detestable characters I’ve ever seen in a film. Definitely in the running for worst mother ever. If there was anything in this film that brought about passion in me, it was this character, because I hated her so much.

A brilliant pre-code this is bot, but it is a very solid romantic melodrama that uses the conventions of these types of films in and interesting way. And Stanwyck, as always, keeps things fresh.

By Katie Richardson